Arkansas Business reports the death this morning of Ray Thornton, 87, a former congressman, Arkansas Supreme Court justice and president of the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University.

In national obituaries, he’ll undoubtedly be remembered as part of the bipartisan group of House Judiciary Committee members who drafted the articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. He was also the defendant in the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state term limits amendments could not impose new rules on qualifications to serve in Congress. This struck down an Arkansas amendment including members of Congress in a terms limits measure.


His most recent public service in a lengthy career for Thornton, who grew up in Sheridan, was as first chair of the Arkansas Lottery Commission.

Ruebel Funeral Home will be handling funeral arrangements.


As news circulated, elected officials began issuing statements. Former Gov. Mike Beebe’s included this about Thornton’s manner:

He was a gentleman, who always wore a smile and welcomed everyone he met with civility and a warm heart. But he was most admired for his intellect, his integrity, his leadership abilities, and his passion for serving the people of our state.

You can read Th0rnton’s life story in his own words at the archive of interviews with Supreme Court justices.